At some point in your life, you will likely be involved in the probate of an estate. That involved may come as a result of being appointed the Executor in a decedent’s Last Will and Testament or because you volunteer to oversee the probate of an intestate estate. You might also be named as a beneficiary or be a legal heir to the estate of someone who recently passed away. Regardless of the reason for your involvement, you will undoubtedly have questions about the probate process. For example, you will likely want to know how long it takes to probate an estate in Maryland. A Los Angeles probate attorney at Schomer Law Group, APC helps you to better understand how long it typically takes to probate an estate.
What Is Probate?
Most people leave behind an estate when they die. That estate consists of all assets, both tangible and intangible, owned by the decedent at the time of death. Probate is the legal process by which those assets are identified, located, valued, and eventually distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate. If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament, the individual named as the Executor in that Will is responsible for overseeing the probate process and the terms of the Will are used to determine how the estate assets are distributed. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), someone typically volunteers to be the Personal Representative and oversee the probate of the estate, and the state intestate succession laws dictate how estate assets are distributed. The term Personal Representative is typically used to refer to either an Executor appointed in the Will, or a volunteer appointed by the court.
What Happens During Probate?
Every estate is unique, making the probate process unique as well for every estate. Numerous factors can impact the probate process; however, there are some steps that remain common to the probate process for most estates, including:
- Starting the probate process. The Personal Representative (PR) initiates the probate of the estate by filing a petition, along with a certified copy of the death certificate and an original Last Will and Testament with the appropriate court.
- Inventorying, securing, and valuing assets. The PR must complete an inventory of the decedent’s assets, including both tangible and intangible assets. Those assets must also be secured and maintained throughout the probate process. A date of death value will be required for all estate assets as well.
- Notification of creditors and payment of claims. All potential creditors of the estate must be notified that probate is underway. This can be done individually for known creditors but must also be done by publication in a local newspaper for unknown creditors. The PR reviews all claims submitted and pays all approved claims, according to priority, using estate assets.
- Prepare, file, and pay estate taxes. All estates are potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. In addition, some states also impose a state estate tax. California is not one of those states. Estate tax returns must be prepared and filed with both the state and federal government and any taxes due paid.
- Transfer of assets to beneficiaries/heirs. Finally, the remaining assets are transferred to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs.
How Long Will Probate Take to Complete?
Given the numerous factors that can impact the probate process for a particular estate, it is impossible to know exactly how long it will take ahead of time. In California, however, probating even a relatively modest and uncomplicated estate will take a minimum of six to eight months because creditors are given four months to file claims against the estate. That time period must pass, and all claims must be reviewed (and paid if applicable), before probate can be wrapped up. If the estate included valuable and/or complex assets, or if the estate becomes involved in litigation, it can take several years to complete the probate process. Because estate assets cannot be distributed until the probate process is concluded, many people choose to include probate avoidance tools and strategies in their estate plans.
Contact a Los Angeles Probate Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about the California probate process, contact an experienced Los Angeles probate attorney at Schomer Law Group APC by calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.